Movie review: 'Bad Grandpa' capitalizes on bad taste


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It's not surprising that Johnny Knoxville returns to his money-making franchise. Or that he pretends to be an 86-year-old widower traveling cross-country with his grandson in "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa."

No, it's astonishing that no one ever took a swing at him or another adult actor caught in his comic charade, especially when gramps disrupts male strippers, a tots-and-tiaras-style beauty pageant and confronts his faux son-in-law amid a bar full of hard-core bikers.

You could almost forgive him everything, from the fake funeral for his elderly wife to treating a grocery store as though it were a free buffet, but ruining someone's wedding cake and pyramid of filled champagne glasses goes too far. I assume that was a real reception, just as everything else in the hidden-camera movie seems to be.

'Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa'
  • Starring: Johnny Knoxville, Jackson Nicoll.
  • Rating: R for strong, crude and sexual content throughout, language, some graphic nudity and brief drug use.

Mr. Knoxville appears in character throughout as Irving Zisman, who looks a little like Art Carney in his later years. Irving's daughter is headed to jail, and he's charged with taking 8-year-old Billy (Jackson Nicoll) to his derelict dad many states, miles and "Candid Camera" adventures away in Raleigh, N.C.

They never met an event they couldn't corrupt with craziness, from bingo to mealtime in a restaurant where grandpa demonstrates a facility for flatulence and leaves his, uh, mud-colored mark on the wall.

Teaming Mr. Knoxville -- always a better actor than this franchise would indicate -- with young Jackson was inspired, and strangers don't quite know what to make of the boy.

A preview audience frequently howled, and some of it is funny in a shocking or juvenile way although, as always, it leans too heavily on the sexual or scatological. Grandpa appearing to disrespect a corpse, not funny; Billy pushing Grandpa in a shopping cart or bestowing a "stripper name" on a woman at an adult book store, funny.

And it's a step up from the previous movies, which often were a collection of masochistic stunts, pranks and vomit-inducing challenges to, for instance, drink horse semen.

But the movie ends up being a series of truncated episodes that abruptly cut away, as if the sketch were over or someone summoned the authorities or the jig was up.

It's surprising that so many people apparently didn't object to their images being included (those who did have their faces obscured) and if you watch the closing credits, you'll see how the real folks reacted when told they were unwitting extras in a Johnny Knoxville movie. Of course they are the ones demonstrating good humor, not the ones who still think he's a jackass.


Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.

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